Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Eggtooth Team
Publisher: JoWood Entertainment, Dreamcatcher
Release Date: 02/25/2011
What would you say if I told you that there is a game out there that allows you to shoot nearly six thousand demons with a variety of weapons for a mere $4.99? That sounds like a good deal, right? After all, video games are all about entertainment, and the premise I just described sounds like the perfect mindless action movie made interactive.
That premise is also exactly what Painkiller: Redemption attempts to deliver. The developers started as a mod team for a previous version of Painkiller, and apparently their work was impressive enough for it to be released as a standalone paying title. I will admit right away that I have never played another iteration of the franchise before. Therefore, I jumped into this game with a fresh mind, not really knowing what to expect except for what I had been promised by the game’s description: waves after waves of baddies all ready to die for my fun.
Let’s see if the excitement can translate properly from concept to finished product.
The game puts you in the shoes of Daniel Garner and Belial, who apparently does not deserve a last name. These two are stuck in Hell, where there’s a power struggle going on. Over the last few games, it seems like Daniel has been busy killing various demons and even Satan himself, which means that the ruler of the place is now Eva. As you can guess, this is still not good enough, as you are now charged with killing this new chief demon. In order to do this, you have to shoot your way through her minions.
The story that I have just described is not expanded any further during the game. In fact, the only way you know that there is a story is by reading the scrolling text at the start of the game, all of it written as blandly as possible, just in case you were about to get emotionally invested. All of it feels as if it was just tacked on for the sake of making this more than a tech demo for the game’s weapons.
As for the available modes, there is only one. It’s about shooting demons, and the only game changer is that there are four available difficulty levels. The levels mainly change the amount of damage you take from each hit. The number of demons on screen at a time does not seem to fluctuate that much, at least not enough to make a difference.
Story/Modes Rating: Dreadful
The game’s description says that it features “improved graphics.” I cannot really compare it to the previous versions, but if this is their definition of “improved”, then the old graphics must really have been an eyesore. It’s not that these graphics are completely ugly; in fact they are entirely competent for what the game tries to accomplish. After all, just how sharp do you need your graphics to be to properly depict hundreds of demons being killed at the speed of light? There is so much going on at any moment that you don’t really have the time to stop and appreciate the scenery.
If you do stop for a moment though, you quickly notice that everything is in the same palette of brown, maroon or dark beige. You can see the flat textures and the blurry faces of your tormentors. Momentary slowdowns totally kill the illusion that this game could somehow be considered pretty. The problem here is that in a genre that usually relies on cutting-edge graphics, Painkiller: Redemption looks terribly dated. It would have looked good at the start of the century, and even decent a couple of years ago, but now it just looks bad when compared to some of the powerhouses being released, and even when compared to some indie title like Zeno Clash.
Graphics Rating: Poor
I hope you love generic metal music because that is all you are going to get here. There may or may not be different songs. If there is more than one track in this game, then all the songs sound so similar that it feels like different parts of the same one. The music is not even really that appropriate for the game. Sure, it’s a game based in hell, which is a big source of inspiration for a lot of metal lyrics, but many games over the history of video games have explored the setting with better, less irritating soundtracks. It’s not even that I don’t like metal; it’s far from my favourite genre, but I do appreciate it enough to have spent an entire day at a festival last year. It’s just that the soundtrack seems to have been ripped straight off a bad shooter from the late 90’s.
As for sound effects, it’s one of the most competent parts of this game. Let me tell you that this is far from being high praises. I’ve never heard a real demon dying, but the developers’ guess as to what it might sound like is convincing enough. The guns’ shootings sounds feel underpowered, and the rest is just being drowned by the awful music which I described above.
You know how some games are so good that you want to download the soundtrack and listen to it in your iPod? This is not one of these games.
Sound Rating: Bad
CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY
When it comes to simply the way it controls, Painkiller: Redemption is simply great. It uses the tried and true WASD control scheme, with different weapons being mapped to the numbers keys at the top, and the shooting being assigned to your mouse. It’s fluid, it’s simple, it’s intuitive… it works. From a technical point of view, the controls are plain and simply fantastic. The game reacts quickly to everything you do, the physics are in order and if something bad happens to your character, there’s no denying that it was your fault.
The gameplay aspect is where things go bad. The concept should be a crowd pleaser for many fans of first-person shooters. You are put in a room with waves after waves of demons which you must shoot before you can make your way to the next room. It sounds simple and, guess what, it really is. It’s not only simple; it also becomes mind-numbing after a while. After a while, it gets past that and just goes straight to “boring.” In order to maintain a player’s attention, a game has to either tell an interesting story or keep throwing new stuff to do to keep things fresh. This game does neither. I have already discussed the story in a previous section. So let’s see how shooting thousands of evil entities can feel like such a chore.
First of all, there’s the lack of variety. This is found both in the choice of environment and in the type of enemies. For most of the game, I was shooting skeletons or evil-looking orc-type characters. The game tried to pretend that there were more units than that by changing the way they dressed. Sometimes I would face skeletons with torches and gowns. Sometimes I would face the same skeletons, but with a shield and a sword. That’s the extent of it. The biggest challenge I was thrown was when bats were sent my way, and shooting bats with a shotgun is similar to fishing with dynamite. Even if you don’t really try that hard, something’s dying. The environments were not much better, with every last one of them looking like some type of dungeon, only with slight changes of configuration.
My second issue with the gameplay is the fact that the levels are way too small and cramped. This means that there is usually one sweet spot per level were you can easily hide behind an obstacle and wait for the bad guys to come at you. If you want to survive, you just stay there, kill demons, collect whatever they drops when there’s nobody left, go back to your spot and start again. Trying to go anywhere else in the levels is futile; you would simply get ambushed from behind or put yourself in a vulnerable position. The game thus devolves into a shooting range featuring demons as your targets.
I can see what Painkiller:Redemption is aiming for in type of gameplay: something frantic, where there is something happening everywhere and the player is constantly at risk, kind of like the survival mode of the Left 4 Dead franchise. The problem is that the way it is design sucks all the fun and excitement out of the experience.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Mediocre
You have about five hours worth of shooting at your disposition here. You will wish it was over way before that. There is no multiplayer mode, despite the fact that the game relies on maps that were initially designed for the original game’s multiplayer component. There is absolutely nothing to make you want to go through it all more than once. Even going through this game once is a good test of someone’s patience.
Replayability Rating: Dreadful
Like I said before, I’m not even sure what the difference is between the available difficulty levels. Weapons are available to you from the start; you just have to collect ammos from defeated enemies or chests lying around. Levels can easily be beaten by staying in one spot and just waiting. The biggest challenge here is finding the will to keep playing.
Balance Rating: Dreadful
This is the fourth sequel to a game originally released in 2004. This is a first-person shooter set in hell (or purgatory if you want to be technical), which is something you have probably played at least a dozen times if you have been playing PC games for a couple of years. I know it’s getting harder and harder to come up with original concept, but the problem here is that this game really feels like everything was recycled from previous versions. Like I said, I haven’t played the original, but when I started digging a little bit to find more info about the game, I learned that everything from the maps to the enemies was recycled from previous versions of Painkiller. Basically, you are paying five dollars because now, monsters are not appearing in the same number or at the same pace on previously made multiplayer maps.
Originality Rating: Worthless
Well, it was fairly easy to let go of this game. I can see how people who really, really like to shoot stuff for no reason could enjoy this game for a bit because that’s exactly what you get here. However, for everybody else, there’s nothing to keep you interested in the product. The game’s main hook is that it has approximately 6,000 demons to kill. That’s actually the biggest thing you can see on the game’s Steam page. Trust me, it gets dull fast.
Addictiveness Rating: Worthless
I’m sure that there are still fans of the original Painkiller that might be craving for another game set in the same universe. The price could also be something that could appeal to PC gamer looking for a good deal while browsing Steam. Some people might also be curious about the setting and style which like it or not, has been a popular one for a long time. The truth is that at first sight, the game plays on a couple of familiar video game clichés which could get it an audience. It’s a shame that the product is unable to deliver in terms of gameplay.
Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre
Here’s a positive thing I have to say about the game: it is only $4.99 on Steam. The problem is that even at that price, I cannot recommend this game. It’s not because you have five dollars in the bank that you should absolutely spend it on the first thing you see. I’m sure there are better ways to spend that money. Buy yourself a light snack. Have a beer with your friends. There are many things you can do with five dollars that are better investments than Painkiller: Redemption.
Miscellaneous Rating: Bad
Final Score: Bad Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
I know that the developers used to be a mod team and that without a doubt, they love the series on which they are now working. The problem is that enthusiasm does not necessarily translate into a fun game. Painkiller: Redemption is boring, repetitive and unoriginal. The only people I can see enjoying this one are die hard fans of the original who are willing to play anything as long as it is set in the same universe. Everybody else should avoid this game at all cost, as there are other products out there that can do the same thing but better.